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June 17, 2023

Habit Stacking: What it is, and how to use it

by Katelyn Britt, LCSW

Have you ever heard of Habit Stacking? It’s a method used to  implement new habits – without it becoming too overwhelming. It’s a great tool to improve medication compliance! Let’s talk about Habit Stacking, and different examples, so you can implement it in your own life as needed!

First let’s start with defining a habit. Habits are actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with their performance(1). Previous research stated habits could be formed in as little as 21 days, however more recent research suggests that the learning phase around habit formation plateaus around 66 days of consistent habit implementation. The goal of creating healthy habits is so that these preferred behaviors become so natural and organic for us that when we forget to do them, we notice the strange sensation quickly.

Many have identified wanting to live a healthier life, and may even identify specific healthy goals such as taking medication daily, walking after work in the evenings, or drinking more water, but the greatest barrier to meeting these goals is often forgetfulness.

What is Habit Stacking?

Habit stacking is a way to pair a new behavior with an existing habit to reduce the mental load of having to add in and remember another task. Often we want to add in healthy habits, but due to forgetfulness or other barriers, we do not stick with it. Habit stacking can be beneficial to many areas of our mental health and wellbeing.

Examples of Habit Stacking

  1. Pairing the behavior of taking your daily medication with making your coffee in the morning or brushing your teeth prior to going to bed to encourage medication compliance.
  2. Keeping your medication bottles in a safe, consistent space such as the cabinet above your coffee maker or the bathroom pantry to aid in taking the medication while performing another task as it provides visual cues to remind you to take the medication.
  3. We can encourage Mindfulness by practicing daily while paired with another activity such as taking a shower. We can utilize our senses by noticing the warmth of the water on your skin or the smell of your shampoo or soap. We can take a deep breath, taking inventory of stress or tension throughout the body or noticing the pace of our heart rate.
  4. Practicing gratitude by expressing 3 things you are grateful for today while brushing your teeth or preparing your lunch.
  5. We can engage in positive coping strategies such as body scanning or progressive muscle relaxation when lying in bed every night, even for two minutes prior to drifting off to sleep.

If you need help with habits, routines, and more to encourage your lifestyle and meet your goals, considering speaking with a Behavioral Health professional. You can learn more about our services here.


  1. Gardner, Benjamin & Lally, Phillippa & Wardle, Jane. (2012). Making health habitual: The psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. The British journal of general practice: the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners. 62. 664-6. 10.3399/bjgp12X659466.

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